UN agencies urge India to stop child marriages

UN agencies urge India to stop child marriages

Saving girl child

Coinciding with the observance of the first International Day of the Girl Child on Thursday, UN agencies called upon India to take urgent action against child marriages in the country.

Country heads in India of UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women and UN Information Centre called on Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath and submitted a letter.  

The move gains significance in the wake of demand of Khap panchayats of Haryana to lower the age of marriage to 16 years from 18 years for girls under law. The demand has gained  momentum following a series of incidents of rapes in the state. Even Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chautala supported the panchayats’ demand but later retracted in the face of all-round criticism.

“Child marriage is not a solution to protecting girls from sexual crimes, including rape. In fact, child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk to be a victim of violence, jeopardises her health and, therefore, constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every Millennium Development Goal and the development of healthy communities,” said UN agencies in their joint letter addressed to the Union Government.

“More than 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages happen in India. In eight states of the country, more than half the young girls are married before the age of 18,” laments the letter.
 The letter “calls upon the Government of India to give urgent attention to addressing child marriage and seeks political commitment to work toward the goal of ending this harmful practice.”

“Today, 11 October, is the UN’s first International Day of the Girl Child. For its first observance, this year’s day focuses on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life,” asserts the letter.